Brett Schaefer, a fellow in international regulatory affairs at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy research organization in Washington, D.C., has been nominated by the White House to serve as a member on the United Nations committee on contributions, which advises the General Assembly on apportioning dues that countries pay to the UN’s budget.
The term for the membership is three years, starting Jan. 1, 2019. Rarely is a nomination contested. In the past, a US representative on the 18-member committee has generally been a State Department foreign service officer.
A specialist on foreign policy issues, Shaefer is among those on the Republican right who say that the United States is paying too much money in annual dues to the UN and getting little reward or even support from other member nations. The committee is an important arm of the General Assembly, where the US has been severely criticized over the past year regarding issues involving Israel, Palestine and the future of Jerusalem.
Schaefer has applauded the US decision to leave the Human Rights Council and has opposed the International Criminal Court, the Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Paris agreement on climate change. A hard-liner on Iran, he has been a commentator on Fox News and a frequent contributor to The Daily Signal, a multimedia arm of the Heritage Foundation. In 2009, he wrote a book, “ConUNdrum: The Limits of the United Nations and the Search for Alternatives.”
“The United Nations is not friendly ground for the United States,” Schaefer wrote in The Washington Times on Oct.22. “Last year, less than one-third of the votes taken in the U.N. General Assembly supported the U.S. position. Think that’s because of the Trump administration’s ‘assault on multilateralism’? Think again. Since 1980, the General Assembly on average has backed the U.S. in only 35 percent of the votes taken.”
He wrote positively about threats by Trump and Ambassador Nikki Haley at the UN to countries that oppose US policies in votes there. “Mr. Trump has now asked Congress to pass legislation to make sure that U.S. assistance always serve American interests, and only go to America’s friends.”
The Trump administration, which has already announced unilaterally that it was reducing its peacekeeping assessments — separate but related to the scale adopted by the operating budget committee — is floating the possibility that it will unilaterally reduce its regular budget dues or formally appeal for a reduction. Unilateral actions without the approval of the committee on contributions could open the US to a loss of voting rights in the General Assembly.
In setting the rate of payments for the UN’s 193 members, the committee on contributions takes into account each nation’s ability to pay, based on economic indicators and other calculations. The committee, which was established in 1946, shortly after the founding of the UN, meets about three or four weeks in June. Its next session is June 3-21, 2019.
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Barbara Crossette is the senior consulting editor and writer for PassBlue and the United Nations correspondent for The Nation. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has also contributed to the Oxford Handbook on the United Nations.
Previously, Crossette was the UN bureau chief for The New York Times from 1994 to 2001 and previously its chief correspondent in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She is the author of “So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas,” “The Great Hill Stations of Asia” and a Foreign Policy Association study, “India Changes Course,” in the Foreign Policy Association’s “Great Decisions 2015.”
Crossette won the George Polk award for her coverage in India of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and the 2010 Shorenstein Prize for her writing on Asia.